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People v. Campbell: Motor Carrier Officer’s Ability to Pull Over Vehicles in Carrying Concealed Weapons Case

June 16, 2019 Criminal Law and Procedure

In People v. Campbell out of Mackinac County, the Court of Appeals discusses the ability of Michigan State Police motor carrier officers to stop vehicles. The case also deals with carrying concealed weapons.

Jason Campbell was charged with three counts of carrying a concealed weapon after being pulled over by a Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Officer (MCO). He fought the case, specifically challenging the MCO’s authority to make the initial stop and then to extend the stop.

The trial court in Mackinac County agreed, and the prosecution appealed the decision.

Facts of the Case in People v. Campbell

Campbell was driving a pickup truck and pulling a trailer. On the trailer was a welding truck he used for his business. Campbell said he was driving from Minnesota, although he’s originaly from New Mexico. The MCO pulled Campbell over after noticing a taillight on the trailer was not working

At an evidentiary heraing, the MCO testified the truck had on it the name of a business, a symbol, and a phone number. The truck did not have a carrier identification displayed as would be required by state and federal regulations for commercial vehicles.

The MCO said the lack of carrier identification did not mean the vehicle was not a commercial vehicle, as some vehicles lack the proper identification if they are from other states.

The MCO asked Campbell whether he had any guns in the car, claiming the reason he asked the question was because Campbell seemed nervous. Campbell replied he did have a firearm. He didn’t have a concealed pistol license, but explained that in New Mexico he did not need a license pr permit to carry a firearm in a vehicle.

At issue, the MCO radioed local law enforcement and told them he wasn’t sure whether Campbell’s vehicle was a commercial vehicle, and therefore whether the MCO had the right to conduct the traffic stop. The MCO asked sheriff’s deputies to get involved, but they declined, stating they couldn’t get involved after the MCO had initiated the stop. Ulitmately, the MCO arrested Campbell for carrying concealed weapons charges and brought him to jail. Campbell had three weapons in the car.

Legal Arguments

Campbell filed a motion in trial court challenging the motor carrier officer’s authority in the case. The first argument was that the motor carrier officer didn’t have authority to pull him over because his vehicle was not a commercial motor vehicle. He additionally argued that the officer could shouldn’t have extended the stop when the officer asked Campbell if there were any guns in the car.

As to the first argument, the Court of Appeals believed that Campbell’s vehicle satisfied the definition of a commercial vehicle.

The definition of a commercial vehicle reads, “all motor vehicles used for the transportation of passengers for hire, constructed or use for transportation of goods, wares, or merchandise, and all motor vehicles designed and used for drawing other vehicles that are not constructed to carry a load independently or any part of the weight of a vehicle or load being drawn. Commercial vehicle does not include a limousine operated by a limousine driver, a taxicab operated by a taxicab driver, or a personal vehicle operated by a transportation network company driver.”

The Court especially noted that Campbell told the officer he used the trailer and welding truck for business.

Campbell’s Argument that the Stop Was Unconstitutionally Extended

Campbell’s second argument in the trial court was that the MCO extended the stop of his vehicle when he asked about any weapons.

In general, a traffic stop by a police officer is reasonable so long as the driver is detained only for the purpose of allowing an officer to ask reasonable questions concerning the violation of law and its context for a reasonable period. A stop should end when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are – or reasonably should have been – completed. Stops that go beyond a reasonable time can be an unconstitutional stop and evidence can then be suppressed. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that officers can attend to issue related to safety concerns.

In this case, the Court noted the traffic stop was initially for a defective taillight. Less than a minute and a half into the traffic stop, the MCO asked Campbell whether he had any weapons. The MCO then followed up Campbells’ affirmative answer with the question of whether Campbell had a CPL Although the question related to a CPL did not directly related to the purpose of the stop, the Court did not believe the MCO unreasonably extended the stop to ask these questions.

The Second and Third Weapons

The trial had initially suppressed all evidence of the case, including the second and third firearms Campbell had in the car but did not initially disclose. Campbell was not read Miranda warning after being arrested, but the Court of Appeal worked around that.

The Court ruled that the two guns as evidence were admissible because they were physical evidence found as the result of a voluntary statement by Campbell – even if the statement by Campbell was elicited in violation of Miranda. The statement itself might not come into evidence, but the physical evidence found as a result of the statement can be fair game for the prosecution so long as the statement was voluntary.

Many people think that Miranda provides protection for the public against police interrogation. The reality is that Miranda law is so watered down that it’s practically nonexistent as a constitutional protection.

Carrying Concealed Weapons Law

Many prosecutor offices take carrying a concealed weapons charges seriously. Many prosecutor offices have blanket no-deal policies for the plea bargaining process with these charges. It’s important to hire an attorney who understands these laws well to look for any potential legal challenges to the case against you. Read some of our CCW articles to learn more about the law:

And much more that you can find by going to our search bar on the right hand side of the page and searching for “carrying a concealed weapon.” Or you can go to our “Criminal Charges” page and go to firearms law where we have many pages on the topic.

For questions on pending charges, don’t hesitate to call for a free initial consultation.

Call us

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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